Cream Cheese, Quilts, Cars & Gratitude


Clearing through the attic last week, I found a treasure. When my girls were little I used to make their clothes. Whatever material was left was cut into patches to make simple quilts. I found a bag of these patches, wrinkled but otherwise perfect. I ironed them and sewed them together into a quilt.  I showed it to my daughters this weekend and it brought back such nice memories for all of us.  My middle daughter is the most sentimental of my 3 so I’ll do some hand quilting on this and have it done for her by Christmas.
I’ve been wanting to make my own cheese so I started with an easy one..cream cheese. It was just a matter of getting the milk to the right temperature, adding the culture and letting it sit until the whey separated. Then I set it to drain. It came out delicious.

Now that gardening season is over, I’ve been putting aside time to take walks.  There’s woods, fields and streams right outside my door and this time of year is especially beautiful.
I’m mad at myself for not taking better care of my car.  It’s 9 years old and the road treatments for snow have created a big rust problem.  I should have  rinsed it down and parked it  out of the elements but I never did.  Soon I’ll be traveling a lot to help my daughter take care of her baby since she has to go back to work.  I was hoping to trade in my jeep and get something newer but the rust has devalued it.   Lesson learned.  The money part is a problem but what bothers me most  is that I didn’t care properly for something that I was lucky to have.  Poor stewardship.  To me , that says there’s a lack of gratitude.  Not a good thing.  I started this blog for the opportunity to stay focused and thankful for all the wonderful things in this world and in my life.  It’s been  so great to see, read, learn things and make blog friends from all over the world.   Thank you all!

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Peach Butter, Sauerkraut & “Pumpkin” Bread

I had a fun day at my friend’s house. She brought home cabbage,kale, purple cabbage and lots of squash from her sister’s organic farm. We spent the morning making fermented sauerkraut with the kale and cabbages. While we were chopping and salting, we had her oven filled with baking squash..Delicatas, Hubbards and Butternuts. Once the squash were cooked and cooled we skinned and seeded them and mashed the pulp. With that, we made lots of “pumpkin” bread. She added cranberries and nuts to some of the loaves. Once baked and cooled, most of the loaves went into the freezer along with the mashed squash that was left over.
My own squash crop was dismal but I did have a volunteer vine that grew from the compost I added to the asparagus bed. I let it go and it turned out to be acorn squash that yielded a few nice little gifts.
I harvested a delicious basket of peaches from the tree my daughter gave me for Mother’s Day. After eating our fill, I made a couple of jars of peach butter from what was left. I cooked about 12 smallish peaches, pitted but not peeled, on top of the stove with a little bit of water until they were soft. Then I put the mixture through the food mill. I ended up with 3 cups of pulp and juice. I added 1 1/2 cups of sugar (2 to 1 ratio), cinnamon,allspice and ginger to the pulp and simmered it slowly and gently on top of the stove until it was thick, stirring it so it wouldn’t burn. Then I poured it into hot, sterilized jars, sealed them up and processed them in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. It came out delicious!  I think  it will be really good on fresh, warm buttermilk biscuits .

Americana and a Mansion

It was a beautiful day for a ride. We went through a covered bridge in Connecticut, drove up along the Hudson River and detoured for a few minutes to gawk at one of the Vanderbilt mansions.


In Rhinebeck we saw an interesting looking tavern, the Liberty Public House where we stopped for lunch. The bar was gorgeous. The decor was old Americana.  Some of it was a little creepy… as was the trip up to the bathroom, lol.

The people there were fun and friendly and the food was good.  I got a salmon burger that was the best I’ve ever had.. lots of fresh salmon, seasoned and cooked perfectly with a hint of dill and dressed with tzatziki.

Pickling


I’ve gotten over 20 pounds of cucumbers and they’re still coming so it’s pickle time. Last year I cultured all my vegetables using sea salt and whey. This year, I’m doing a little experimenting. I brined the whole cucumbers in a sea salt solution for 3 days and then transferred them to the refrigerator. They’re nice and crunchy. The spears I also brined in a sea salt solution and I added a starter culture… Caldwell’s. For the relish and beans, I used the starter culture as well. Everything came out crisp and flavorful. The crispiness is due to the sea salt. The starter culture supposedly increases the nutritional value and the strains of beneficial bacteria.
I prefer cultured vegetables to canned because of the nutritional benefits. They offer a lot more in the way of vitamins and minerals and increasing healthy gut microbes. A lot has been written on that subject by Dr. Mercola  and Sally Fallon. I recently read the book, ‘Brain Maker’ by David Perlmutter, MD. He’s a neurologist and also a big proponent for implementing cultured foods in the diet. It was a good read and had some interesting cultured food recipes that I’ll be trying soon.

Red Currant Jam & Cucumbers

I should have made pickles today, I have loads of cucumbers. But… there was a beautiful bag of frozen red currants in the freezer that’s been calling my name. This is the first year my red currant bush fruited. It only yielded about 4 cups, not even enough to make a pie with. Still, I wanted to make something special with the berries.
I remembered making grape jelly with my Grandmother. We had an arbor in the back yard that was loaded with dark purple, thick skinned grapes. They were so delicious. Jelly day started early, picking and preparing the grapes and sterilizing our jars and lids. The kitchen steamed up and smelled all sugary, like candy. In a few hours we had rows of glistening purple jars lining the counters. That gave me the idea of making a jar of jelly.

I  found a beautiful page on the Internet :  David Lebovitz, living the sweet life in Paris , that gave  simple and perfect  instructions.

I gently cooked the currants until they were soft, then put them through a food mill.   Weighing the juice on a postal scale, I came up with 6 ounces.  The ratio between fruit and  sugar for jelly is 1 to 1 so I knew I needed 6 ounces of organic cane sugar, which I also weighed out.

I brought the juice to a boil and skimmed off the scum that came to the top and stirred in  the sugar.  Everything was then brought to a boil  for 5 minutes.  It was at the perfect jelly stage!  Everything took less than an hour.

When my daughter came home, I made us a snack.  Homemade, buttered sourdough toast with red currant jelly and a cucumber smoothie, lol.  I don’t want to waste these cucumbers!  A combination of cucumber, frozen pineapple, frozen blueberries, a squirt of lemon juice and a spoonful of honey made a  really good and refreshing drink.

Hibiscus, Harvest & Sourdough

All the hibiscus are blooming. A few  raspberries and green beans are still trickling in. The cucumbers are taking over with a vengeance. Once again, my squash succumbed to mildew and I wish I had planted more potatoes.

The sourdough starter I made last week was ready to use Monday and I baked its first loaf of bread yesterday. I stuck with the recipe from, My Sister’s Kitchen. It never does me wrong.

Rhinebeck


My husband and I took a ride through the hills. We spent the day in an artsy little town, Rhinebeck, New York.
Rhinebeck has a real vintage vibe – there’s a big, old family-owned five and dime store in the center of town along with clothing stores, unique little shops, cafés and pubs.
Lots of the shops have hand made things for sale. I really liked Nectar. It is a beautiful store and everything in there is fair trade, green or repurposed. The owner, Jenny, was really friendly and she told me she travels all over the world for her merchandise.
We had lunch outside on the patio of Terrapin restaurant. They have fresh, crusty artisan breads and handmade cheeses. Their food is sourced locally and they use organic ingredients. Everything was fresh and full of flavor… deliciousness!
The little pizza shop in town sells handmade ice cream. I couldn’t resist. I got a black currant and cream ice cream cone and it was really good.
We went off the beaten path a little bit and found a big barn/ Antique mart. It was fun to poke around in there for a while before heading home.

Fruit Toppings & Keeping Flowers

A few weeks ago I made strawberry topping for ice cream sundaes. There was some left so I refrigerated it used it to top the yogurt and kefir I make. It was delicious.  I decided to do a healthier version with the small amount (1 cup) of gooseberries I harvested. I mashed and cooked them down for a few minutes and then once they were cooled, I stirred in raw honey. Heat kills the enzymes in the honey. Had I been sweetening with sugar, I would’ve just added the sugar in the beginning with the berries. I’ll keep this gooseberry topping in the fridge and make blueberry and strawberry as well.

Flowers are so pretty I wish they would last forever. My cousin told me that Mod Podge preserves fresh flowers. I printed out some quotes that I like in a dimension for bookmarks. Then I decorated them with fresh flowers and glued and sealed them with Mod Podge. (Elmer’s or white glue works just as well but needs to be thinned a little bit with water.)

I posted about our losing my cousin John a few weeks ago. His daughter Stacey (she is so much like her Dad), sent me roses. I wanted to keep them so I made rosepetal beads . The link gives easy directions and a wonderful story of how they were used in Medieval times. The only ingredients were 4 cups of petals and water. They were very easy to make. I strung them on a chain that I wear with my Grandfather’s wedding ring and a few other things that are meaningful to me. Body heat imparts the rose fragrance. It’s a beautiful reminder to me of people that I love so much.

New Haven

Saturday was cold, wet and dreary. Sunday brought more of the same and I could feel myself beginning to wallow in it. I convinced my husband to skip town and we took a little road trip down to New Haven. The city was pretty congested because Yale was having its Summer Camp check in and there was a Caribbean festival going on in town so we spent the afternoon on Chapel Street. It’s a nice walking area with lots of unique shops, restaurants and some of the old Yale campus buildings. I found a birthday present for my daughter in one of my favorite stores and a pretty piece of vintage wrapping paper in an art store. The paper will be perfect for a decoupage project I have in mind.

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We had lunch at one of my favorite cafés, Claire’s Cornucopia.

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It ended up being a fun day.

Our Farmers’ Market!

Today kicked off the first day of this season’s local Farmers’ Market. It’s held on Sundays from 11am until 2 o’clock, on South Farms. Buying from the vendors there is an affirmation of many of the things that are important to me. It gives me the opportunity to support local businesses, organic growing practices and farmers that raise animals that are allowed to run free, are well cared for and are not pumped up with hormones and antibiotics.

I stocked up on groceries and couldn’t resist buying some beautiful alpaca yarn from Stan. Wool itches me but I learned today that there is no lanolin in alpaca yarn so it won’t itch. The skeins I bought were from his alpaca named Victoria, lol.  Thank you Stan and Victoria:)

Pond’s Poultry Farm is new to the market. Dwayne Pond has a beautiful, young family and a farm in town. He raises small flocks of chickens and has a couple of pet goats. Turkeys are on the way. He’s a funny guy, check out his t-shirt.   I think the picture I posted of the plaque in his booth states his intentions for his small farm perfectly.

Special Ingredients

My daughters have been calling in requests for things that they want me to cook for Easter.   I don’t  know how many generations have been making our family recipes but since my Mother died 4 years ago, it’s been my turn to keep them going.

Yesterday I made nut roll.  There’s a lot more cooking left to do and some of the ingredients aren’t available in  the regular grocery stores.  I took a little trip to a town about 40 minutes away that has a strong, Eastern European community and a good ethnic market.  There was a 45 minute wait to get into the shop.  In line, the mood was festive.  Everyone was  excited about the holiday.  We were all talking and laughing with each other.  Since many of us were making the same traditional Easter dishes, the conversation turned to recipes and cooking anecdotes.  It was fun and the time flew by!

The store was pretty big and had a lot of interesting things that aren’t in the regular grocery stores.  Many of the items had labels that weren’t written in English.  I got everything I needed, had  a good time looking around and found a few interesting things for the Easter baskets.

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Getting Ready

Baking, cleaning, finishing up a few things to go in the Easter baskets,continuing to sow seeds for the garden…today was the beginning of a busy week.  I made Laurie’s  ginger-carrot soup from Notes from the Hinterland  and it was delicious!  We’re still getting snow..flurries mostly and the temperatures are cold so chances are that we wont be having any daffodils or tulips anytime soon ouside.  Luckily, the indoor plants are doing their best to make up for it.

Cabbage Patch, Calendula & Diamataceous Earth

I may have been a little over enthusiastic in sowing the seeds for my cabbage patch.  I have over 60 little plants.  Cabbage is great for saurkraut, of course,  and if you make your own you can add all sort of good things to it…carrots, kale, onions..even oranges.  Delicious!  I like to stir fry cabbage in coconut oil. It is  sweet, a little crunchy and doesn’t smell like sulfur when cooked this way.  Onions, fresh garlic and sea salt taste great with it.   Pea pods make a great addition too.

I have a lot of calendula started too.  Fresh calendula petals added to stir fries, salads..even fruit salads make things look pretty and add extra nutrition.  Dried petals retain their shape and color when added to glycerine soaps, vinegars and oils.  In the garden, they  are workhorses and make terrific companion plants.

I notice the fruit flies beginning to hover and multiply over my seedlings.  A little food grade Diamataceous earth sprinkled on the potting bench will take care of that problem in no time.  It’s non toxic and safe for pets.  Once it gets wet it is no longer effective. In the past, I’ve had issues with ants and japanese beetles in my old house.  Last year I sprinkled Diamataceous earth in all the windowsills, along the perimeters of the cellar and on top of the beams.  It really worked .

Speaking of Cabbage Patches and little sprouts…my daughter is having a baby!  The first grandchild!  I added the last stitch to this happy little quilt last night.

Away from the Snow

Aside from getting a flat tire on the highway in Washington DC at midnight, (watch those potholes!), it was lovely to get away from the snow for a few days.  My husband had some business in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Their spring seems to be slow starting too but it was definitely in the air.  Doesn’t this macaroni and cheese look delicious? It was!

Big Blizzard, Soup with Potato Dumplings

A Big Blizzard is on the way with 2-3 feet of snow  predicted and 50-60 mph winds.  The governor has a travel ban posted after 9pm. tonight.

The news was stressing me out, speculating on all the worst things that could happen and issuing warnings so I turned it off.

I happened to have  a good bit of stock ready this morning so I made a big pot of soup.  Some left-over mashed  potatoes mixed up quickly into little dumplings.  They  were very easy to make.  If you’d like to try them, here’s the recipe;

Make a little well in  3/4 cup of mashed potatoes.  Crack a large egg into it.  Add 1/2 cup flour and salt, pepper to taste.  Combine it all together with your hands. It will be very soft and have a moist consistency.   Drop by 1/2 teaspoonfuls onto simmering soup.   In a few minutes, the dumplings will rise to the top.  Simmer an additional 30 minutes.

Sometimes I make potato noodles instead of dumplings.  It’s just a matter of adding extra flour to this same dough so it gets stiffer.  Then, on a floured board you roll the dough with a rolling pin, quite thin, and cut it into noodles.  Add them to simmering soup and they are done when they rise to the top.

 

Warm from the inside

 

I woke up to snow this morning! I never checked the weather report so it came as a complete surprise. I guess I’ll spend some time shoveling today before everything turns into a frozen, crusty mess..it’s still soo cold.
Yesterday I made a good, warming soup. A bunch of kale, 2 carrots, 2 small potatoes, a tuber of tumeric and a 3 inch chunk of ginger root all went into a pot with homemade chicken stock. Everything was brought to a boil and then simmered until the carrots were tender. When it cooled down a bit, I pureed the whole lot. It tasted good.. a little,spicy, warm and kind of exotic to my New England taste buds. Sea salt, black pepper and a teaspoon of coconut oil made it even better. I’ve been trying to think of ways to incorporate fresh tumeric into my diet..it has so many health benefits: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and there’s a lot of studies showing it may improve brain function and increase endorphins. I’m in! Maybe I wont feel crabby and sore from shoveling this snow:)
My daughter is still home with me for a few more days. Last night we watched the first of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy together and we turned this year’s Christmas cards into next year’s gift tags. Tonight is part 2. I do love having her back home.

Doldrums & Super-juice


I was away for a week with my whole family, (almost), including the dogs! I loved being all together again. It was so much fun.
This morning was a different story. The long car ride home yesterday, the too-quiet house, a week of vacation food ….I felt like a blob.
The temperature was 22 degrees and the wind was terrible. I decided I’d rather face the bitter cold than the dreary prospect of taking down the Christmas decorations so I headed out to our local organic market.
The produce department invigorated and inspired me. (pathetic, I know) Overwhelmed by healthy thoughts, I gathered up ingredients to make a real powerhouse juice… Watercress, wheatgrass, carrots and a nice fat pineapple. Pineapple is a great anti- inflammatory and good for digestion. Beets would have made a healthy addition as they are good blood purifiers but I can’t stand the taste of them. I also picked up a good looking ginger rhizome, raw honey and a bottle of raw, organic apple cider vinegar.
When I got home, I pulled out one of my Christmas presents…a little Ninja juicer. Doubting if it could handle a raw carrot, I threw it in along with some pineapple and my greens. Wanting to hit the whole color spectrum, I added some frozen berries from my garden. It was smooth and delicious! Quick, easy and clean up was a snap. The rest of the pineapple was cut up into cubes and frozen.
Then, I diced up about an inch of the ginger and added it to 2 cups of boiled water. I covered it and left it to steep for a couple hours. Later, I added a teaspoon of honey and 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, mixed it until the honey dissolved and drank it with ice. It tasted really good and clean, very refreshing. I had bought a bottled drink in an expensive gourmet store while I was away that had these same ingredients, except they used stevia instead of honey. It was advertised as being good for detoxifying, digestion and clearing the sinuses. My version tasted a lot like theirs and cost practically nothing.
Still avoiding the Christmas decorations, I cleaned out the fridge and noticed the eggs were getting close to expiring. I made some custard. Organic milk and cream, pasture raised eggs and substituting sucanat for sugar… healthy dessert for tonight.
I stuck the eggshells into the oven when the custard was almost done,that makes them clean and easy to crumble. I keep a jar of powdered eggshells under the sink and add them to boost my seedlings when they get transplanted into the garden. The garden…I can’t wait

Cookies and Christmas Projects


Such a fun time of the year! The weather has been icy, rainy, snowy and overall dreary but it doesn’t matter, I’ve been busy inside baking and trying to finish Christmas gifts. This picture will be for for one of my daughters. My Dad’s 79th birthday was this week so I made a batch of his favorite cookies. It’s the same recipe his Grandmother used when she made them for him. I had a lot of felt from my Mother’s sewing room so I’ve been playing with making these ornaments. I had them all hanging in the kitchen window. My girls noticed them on Thanksgiving and took home what they wanted. You learn to share everything when you come from 3 sisters and have 3 daughters, lol! I’m glad my daughters liked them. I hope all of you are enjoying the season!

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These cookies bake from 7-10 minutes.  It’s best to refrigerate the dough,  for about 15 minutes, before rolling it into little balls.  Set them a couple inches apart onto the cookie sheet, they do spread.

Pie for Breakfast & Christmas Cactus


I officially start my Christmas season with pumpkin pie for breakfast. Thanksgiving was wonderful, all 3 of my girls were here. We had a great day, lots of good food, games, memories and so much to be thankful for! Yorkshire pudding was on the menu, as it has been for generations in my family. This year it raised up nice and puffy….made up for the gravy which was a little on the thin side, lol.
I saved some of the seeds from the spaghetti squash. Hopefully I can get these to grow in the spring and if I manage to confound the dreaded squash borer this year, I love the idea of having squash in the summer from the one we had at Thanksgiving.
The market had these pretty Christmas cactuses for $5.00. I couldn’t resist. They are easy house plants and live for generations. Once this little cactus settles down and gets used to its new home, I’ll transplant it and with permanent marker write the date and my name on the new pot. I’ll paint a rock with the same information and a little picture of a bee. If I use acrylic paint and varnish it, set it on top of the soil with the plant, that will last for years too. Maybe some day a grandchild who loves plants like I do will have this plant! My blogger friend Ginene, from Fox and Finch Antiques had violet plants that were her great Aunt’s from 1955! Thanks for the inspiration, Ginene, and have a wonderful day everyone!!

Thanksgiving plans


The snow is falling and the lights are blinking. Six to nine inches of snow are predicted but it’s alternating with sleet so the roads are treacherous and the lines are heavy. All I can do is keep cooking. If there is no power tomorrow, we’ll load up my old jeep with food and figure things out.
I started my pies early. The dough was mixed up yesterday so I just had to roll it out and prep the fillings. My daughter came home from college yesterday and I was happy thinking about her waking up to the smell of pies baking, in her own bed. Unfortunately, the apple pies started bubbling over onto the bottom of the oven and caught fire. Smoke poured out from the stove and the fire alarms went off, LOUDLY all over the house. I opened the doors and the dogs took off in 2 different directions, running outside towards the road. I would like to say I quickly, calmly and competently handled the situation…BIG LIE
I made a cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries and brown sugar but it was too watery and didn’t taste very good. I added a lot of blueberries that I had frozen from my garden, cider vinegar, allspice and cinnamon and cooked it down until it got thick. Now it’s delicious. The pies are kind of a funny color though.
Things rarely come out the way we expect them to. Maybe tomorrow will turn out to be the perfect ‘Norman Rockwell’ Thanksgiving! Probably not. That’s okay.

Kuri, Cabbages, Tomato Soup and Winter

The forecast of snow and freezing rain prompted me to pull in the last of the cabbage. Blustery winds and an icy chill, the kind that goes right to the fingertips, drove me into the kitchen. The tomatoes had all ripened in the windowsills and I found an interesting looking Kuri squash on sale at our organic market.  The squash was such a rich and pretty color, I decided to use it to make our Thanksgiving soup. Googling it, I read that Kuri squash has a delicate flavor reminiscent of chestnuts. I interpreted that as being bland so I seeded, quartered and roasted it on a cookie sheet with other vegetables that I had on hand; garlic, onions, carrots and tomatoes. After about 30 minutes, I scooped the flesh out of the squash and puréed it with the other roasted vegetables. It tasted delicious. Into the freezer it went. I will add broth to thin it out and finish it with a little cream on Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, I stewed the last of my summer tomatoes and put them through the mill. Instead of freezing the lot, I made a quick batch of tomato soup. I sautéed an onion and a little garlic with lots of fresh oregano in butter until the onions were soft. I puréed that with the tomatoes and let it simmer for awhile.  A touch of cream  cut the acidity and brought some richness and warmth  to the mix.

I made up a batch of sauerkraut with my cabbages and added carrots and kale. I get such a thrill over my sauerkraut.  It’s so gratifying to think how I started with tiny seeds in April and end up with beautiful jars  of healthy, probiotic goodness that will last me all winter!  A lot of people give testimony about the healings that take place when they introduce fermented foods into their diets.  The only thing I noticed was  a weight loss , around 10-15 pounds.  I’m not complaining.

 So, Winter is here, unofficially.  I have embraced it.  There’s usually something good bubbling on the stove and roasting in the oven.  Extra quilts are pulled out of the chests and piled on the beds.   Sewing  baskets, hooks, yarns and my paintbox keep me happy and busy after dinner,  by the fireplace.  Life is good.

 

 

Hello November

Hello November! Today was windy, raining and cold.  Gloomy  Aconitum, not one of my favorites,  is still holding on to its flowers.  Also called Monkshood and Wolfsbane, every part of this plant is poisonous.  It’s often featured as the culprit  causing gruesome deaths  in murder mysteries.   It was one of the few plants here when I moved to this house 14 years ago.

This little Black Eyed Susan vine, on the other hand, is so cheerful and  still blooming.   I started the seeds inside in early April and  then set the baby plants into a pot,  trellis in place,  6 weeks later.  By mid June the vines had scrambled to the top of the trellis and were covered with flowers.  I save these seeds.   After the flowers bloom, I pull the pods and set them in a bowl on the window sill.  One night in September, I heard  lots of little popping noises. All  the pods were opening and shooting little black seeds out of the bowl.  This is a fun and exuberant plant from start to finish.

Today I made some pizzas.  Trying to come up with a  thin crust that is  both crispy and a little chewy, I  substitutied 1/3 of the white flour for semolina flour and it worked pretty well.  I topped them with mozzarella, cheddar and asiago cheeses and tomato sauce.   Really good! Thinking of something else I wanted to get done, I headed out to the vegetable garden for some cabbage. Halfway there, soaking wet and freezing, I turned around and decided not to make sauerkraut. Better to spend the afternoon with a pot of tea in my favorite chair, making Christmas presents.  Happy November!

Black Midnight Cupcakes


My daughter is homesick. She started college this fall, art school. I’m getting text messages that she is hungry – that’s a sure sign. She won’t admit to being homesick, but I know. So, of course, I’ll be making a trip to see her. She’ll want to go shopping and load up on snacks. I’ll try not to look in the cart. I get anxiety over monosodium glutamate and artificial colors.  It drives her crazy.
Since it’s Halloween week, I made her  Black Midnight mini cupcakes. I frosted them with cream cheese frosting. The ingredients are all organic, the eggs pasture raised and the butter and cream cheese are from grass fed cows and cultured.  I won’t tell her but she will know.

Black Midnight mini Cupcakes
Heat oven to 350 degrees
Ingredients
2 cups flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
2/3 cup butter
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
Cream sugar, butter and cocoa. Add vanilla and eggs. Sift dry ingredients. Combine milk and water. Add dry ingredients, alternating with mixture of milk and water. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Fill mini cupcakes about 2/3 full. If not using papers, grease and flour tins. Bake 8-10 minutes, until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
Beat all ingredients until smooth.
Happy Halloween!
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Lasagna with homemade semolina pasta

The difference between handmade pasta and store bought, prepackaged pasta is incredible.  Handmade pasta is very tender, not chewy or rubbery at all.  I’ve made lots of pasta using unbleached, organic white flour and it was good.  Recently,  I met a wonderful cook from Sicily and she told me that pasta made with semolina flour was much better.  I tried it and I am glad I did!  It really was much better!   The dough was very elastic and I was able to get it thin very easily.   The taste was better too. It was lighter, more tender and refined but kept its shape when cooked. In a recent post, I made  FreshTomato Sauce and  had it with semolina pasta for dinner that night.  Using the same dough recipe, I made lasagna noodles. It was a lot less time consuming to make the big lasagna noodles than it was making individual little noodles.  Also, you don’t cook the lasagna noodles before you assemble your dish.  I made a small square pan and cut the noodles to size.  Here’s the recipe : Continue reading